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For distraction, I have been watching the Netflix series Away. It is about a crew of astronauts who embark on a 3-year trip to Mars. The commander is played by Hillary Swank, who I first fell in love with in the movie Boys Don’t Cry, which came out in 1999 about the time I was coming out.

The episode I watched tonight was the “Christmas” episode. I have to admit I cried through much of it. There is so much loss by the crew and their families. But I was struck most by Swank’s character and also by Misha, the Russian cosmonaut who lost his relationship with his daughter because he felt compelled to prioritize “space” over her. And Swank is feeling great angst about the effect the long absence will have on her young teenage daughter during some critical years. And all the crew realize that there is a chance they will never return to Earth and their families.

I cried because I can see myself and my daughter reflected in Hillary and Misha and their daughters. No matter how much Misha tries to bridge the gap between himself and his daughter, she will not totally forgive him for leaving her for space. And Swank is thinking much the same: did her zeal for space result in a permanent barrier between her and her daughter.

Now I am no astronaut.  But I made a decision 20-something years ago to leave my old life in search of one I thought I should have, regardless of the impact on my family. In many ways, that was selfish.

Today, I am not at peace with that decision. I and my family lost a lot because of it. Though I do feel that time has sanded away some of the rough edges with our relationship, I feel so very much alone. In all these 20+ years, I have never felt any attraction to anyone, nothing approaching what I felt for my Ex. Until I moved south to be closer to my daughter, I could count on my hands the number of hugs I had in those 20 years.

I don’t know if Swank will be able to return to her family or not. But I do know I feel I am lost in space. I unhooked my tether and I have floated away.

When your family rejects you because you are trans, is it possible to replace them with a new family of friends and supporters who accept you for who you are?

My sense is an emphatic no. no matter how connected you become to the new family, the pain of not being accepted and included by your birth family never goes away. I firmly believe that those who claim you can replace your birth family are rationalizing and failing to admit that the pain is still there.

I knew I was “different” from the time I was a small child. But I learned that being different growing up in the early 50’s resulted in a lot of pain, physical and emotional pain. So, I learned to sublimate my true self and get on with life.

And I was successful if you gauge success by being able to fit in and do quite well on most metrics. I had a good job, was successful professionally, had a great traditional family, at least until I could no longer deny who I really was.

Then, all that disappeared very quickly. When I came out to my wife in the late 1990’s, there was no successful role model I could show her to try to convince her to stick with our marriage. So, it collapsed and that led to my career collapsing as well.

There is no doubt, the loss of my job and financial stability hurt my wife and daughter immensely. Still, I had been the primary provider for much of our marriage and our lifestyle was considered lower upper class at the worse.

After our marriage ended, my ex became extremely angry toward me and that resulted in my relationship with my daughter degrading quickly. For the 20 years since our divorce, my ex has effectively blocked me from having a meaningful relationship with my daughter. And now with my granddaughter as well. I will not bore you with the details, but I can count the number of times I have been with my granddaughter on my fingers. And the number of times I have been physically near my daughter these twenty years averages less than twice per year.

Last year, my daughter and son-in-law broke up and divorced. Because my son-in-law has been the bridge between my daughter and myself, I was shaken severely. I thought I would lose all connection with my daughter and granddaughter. So I decided to move down to Florida to get closer in the hope that I would be fortunate enough to be “available” when an opportunity arose.

Sadly, it is not working out that way. In the two months I have been living just a few miles away, I have seen my daughter exactly twice. I have not seen my granddaughter at all, save on Facebook.

But I see on Facebook that my ex and her husband are often with them, especially for those important childhood events.

Because my ex still has so much hate for me, I will never be able to develop a true relationship with my granddaughter at long as my ex is in the picture. And I do hope she is around a long time for my daughter’s sake.

So, I wonder what I accomplished by moving to a place where I know no one. Instead of lessening the pain of not being included, being physically close has eliminated my ability to rationalize and excuse because I was “so far away.”

Stupid me.

Thinking the name of my “book” when I get it done will be “Neither here nor there.” This song has always reverberated in me from the first time I heard it in 1969. 

Both Sides Now

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
Moons and Junes and ferries wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
Songwriters: Joni Mitchell
Both Sides Now lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

Put Christmas in the Balance

When you make your decision to transition


Image: Shiva Smyth/Pexels [

Twenty-two years ago, over Easter weekend, I came out to my daughter as a transwoman. It was 1997 and she was in graduate school at Auburn University. She was a “traditional” student, meaning she had begun her college career right after high school, so she was just 22 years old. And we had always had a good relationship – father/daughter, not as close as she was with her mother, of course, but very close I felt.

So, I was optimistic that she would handle the news well. She was studying fashion merchandising which is not the most conservative major. And, at first, things went well. She quickly blurted out that two of her classmates wore women’s clothes and she was OK with that.

I let that pass, thinking there would be time later to help her understand the difference between transwomen and crossdressers/drag queens. We had walked away from her apartment where her mother waited, a mother not at all happy her husband of almost 30 years was changing. On the stroll back, my daughter laughed, a bit nervously, but she continued an upbeat chatter, as she was wont to do, all the way back to her apartment.

Where the shit hit the fan.

Mother was not happy that daughter was not upset with father. She felt daughter should be angry with father. Very angry. So my ex began the effort that continues to this day some 22 years later to drive and keep a wedge between father and daughter.

And that effort has been successful if you gauge it by family Christmases. I soon learned that mother and daughter were going to Atlanta for that Christmas, where my wife’s family lived. And I was not invited to come along.

At first, the pain of no family Christmas was not bad. I had friends and my therapist in New Orleans, so I quickly made reservations at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter and succeeded in distracting myself that Christmas. My therapist had arranged a Christmas Eve party at the home of one of her trans clients, telling me “Remember, a family does not have to be blood.”

And so that first Christmas as an out transwoman. I was able to present myself as my true self to accepting friends. I actually enjoyed myself, thinking as I drank several glasses of wine that I did not have to put up with my pompous brother-in-law for the first time in many years.

But the witching hour arrived, and I returned to the hotel room alone, where I struggled to get to sleep, and awoke not the least bit refreshed.


Just as I am now this Christmas evening. Alone. My 22nd Christmas without my daughter.

Yes, I tried mightily to build a new family composed of just the folks who loved me the way I felt I needed to be. And some years, I was able to have a Christmas where I felt loved and accepted for the person I am.

But these “families” could never replace my own family. My daughter, especially, and now her daughter, my granddaughter, I miss terribly during the holidays. And as I get older and begin to sense the end of my life approaching, the pain of not being with them gets worse each year. In part, that may be because my daughter and I have worked hard to reconcile, and I do get to spend time with her during the year. For too many years, I had little contact with her. I am so very grateful for the time I do get with her.

Still, I know now that holidays, particularly Christmas, I will spend away from her. My ex, who I will always love, still has too much hate and anger toward me to allow me to share in any family holidays. Because I do not want to put any more pressure on my daughter, I rarely, if ever mention the holidays to her. I know her mother would make her life miserable if my daughter tried to include me. So, I try to steel myself and divert my attention by traveling during the holidays to the extent my budget allows.

I am sharing these thoughts now because I want folks who are considering transitioning to be aware that this pain of losing your family during the holidays may never go away. No matter how hard you try, if you have love for your ex, your child, their children, the holidays will likely be painful.

Yes, spend time with people who love you the way you are meant to be. But, please do not convince yourself that you can totally erase the pain by being with a new family, no matter what your therapist or LGBTQ+ friends tell you.

Make the decision to transition fully knowing the benefits and the downside. Things are better for non-traditional folks these days, but many transfolk still lose their families when they transition. And some, perhaps many, still lose their careers, financial stability, and friends.

Especially as I get older, I wonder if I made the right decision. At first, the tradeoff seemed fair, though I immediately lost the many tailwinds I had unknowingly benefited from my whole life. I was alive and surviving, and eventually clawed my way back to some semblance of “normal” life.

But now, the balance between 22 years of lost family holidays on top of the other losses, against my gains from transitioning, is in question. Knowing now the pain of the last 22 years of Christmas without my family, I am not sure I would make the same decision.

A simple test and I flunked

I failed another test today. A test of conscience.

As I parked my car outside my condo after walking at the park, I saw my downstairs neighbor getting in his car. He drives for Uber and Lyft to supplement his income, so he comes and goes a lot. I walked over and told him about my car getting “robbed” the night before. When I got in my car that morning, I found my glove box open and everything in it on the floor. The box in the center console was also open and the old wallet I keep in there for change for tolls and visits to the fast food joints was gone, as were my iPhone earphones and charging cable. I told him my son-in-law’s car had been robbed in our lot as well a few months ago. In both cases, we had forgotten to lock our doors.

My neighbor’s reaction was immediate. “It’s those folks in Knollwood Apartments down the street,” he said. “Are you sure,” I asked. “I lived in Knollwood for a couple of years and it seems like a nice place.”

‘Not anymore.” He said. “It’s gone Section 8!”

My neighbor is a middle-aged white man from Louisiana. I knew immediately he meant the problem was the “blacks” living on government assistance. I wanted to say something to show I did not agree with him that black folks were necessarily the robbers. That needing government housing assistance did not equate with being black. Or being a criminal.

But I said nothing, not wanting to create a problem with my neighbor. A neighbor who seems to accept me for who I am, even though I do not exactly pass very well anymore. I am androgynous at best on a good day.

But I, too, am an older white person. I have no doubt he would not be so accepting if I were not white.

And so, I am afraid of rocking the boat, here in deep red Alabama. I need to find my voice again.


[For a worthwhile read about why “Section 8” came to be a racially-charged label, see]